Tuesday, September 24, 2019

All 50 States

There are many people who never leave their home State, or if they do, go to only one or two other States, in their own lifetime.

We were swimming in the pool at a campground and met a nice couple of had a big diesel motorhome.  We were talking about different places we've been to and the lady exclaimed to us, "Gosh, you guys have been to all 50 states haven't you?"

Well, we admitted, we've been to all 50 states, except Hawaii, and hope to go there sometime in the next few years. She seemed rather astounded by this, as she and her husband only been to maybe a dozen states at most, and not even one or two provinces in Canada.

One of the reasons the United States has become an economic powerhouse is that you can travel between all 50 States without needing a passport or having to pay duty on goods you carry across the borders between States.  This seems like a trivial thing, but take a look at what's going on in Europe right now with the Brexit nightmare.  The whole point of the European Union was to allow countries, or as we call them, States, to trade with one another without restriction.  This can create an economic powerhouse as the economy grows when commerce increases.  It's also the fundamental idea behind free trade, although that doesn't always work out as planned.

When the United States was formed, the term "State" didn't refer to a province or County or some small subunit of government, but rather to a country in and of itself.  Each of the 13 original colonies considered itself a separate governing body, at the time.  We talk about leaders of countries as Heads of State, and if you cut off their heads it was a coup d'etat -  blow against the State.

The United States started out as a collection of United Countries - under the Articles of Confederation.  That didn't quite work out, and today, we have a Federal system with a Constitution.  But this did not occur without a lot of bloodshed.   The rights of individual States to, say, allow slavery, conflicted with the overall Federal plan.   We killed more people in the Civil War than all other wars combined.   The net result, was, a more powerful central government and a more cohesive country, today known as the "United States" but consisting of just one State. 

Today, the term "State" has taken on a different meaning in the US, akin to the term "Province" as used in Canada.  We assume that a State, or Commonwealth as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts call themselves, are mere subordinate governmental units to the overall Federal scheme, which in effect they are.  Most Americans don't give it a second thought.

But our European friends are always puzzled by our two concurrent and overlapping governmental systems.   You can be arrested by your village cop, the town police, the County Sheriff, the State Patrol, or the FBI - in some States, all five law enforcement agencies might have concurrent jurisdiction.   States can legalize marijuana, but it still remains illegal at the Federal level.   In a way, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Bu, it is amazing that you can travel across State lines in the United States without having to show a passport or declare and pay duty on products you are transporting. Not only that, you are free to live and travel in any one of these 50 States without having to obtain permission of the government. This may sound like a simple thing, but in Soviet Russia it was not so simple - nor indeed in Russia even today. In many countries, you need permission from the government just to move from one place to another. Mobility is the ultimate form of freedom.

That is why, perhaps, that Americans had high hopes for a "United States of Europe" - the European Union.   In addition to all the problems we had - individual States giving up sovereignty to a central government (In Europe, "Brussels" is as reviled as "Washington" is in the US), they also had problems with language and culture.  And once the various countries were opened up to free mobility, many people sought out the best and most prosperous countries.    Folks in the UK were alarmed by the number of Polish people moving into their "State".   Here in the US, folks in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Texas are alarmed by the number of Californians moving in.   In both cases, the complaints about these interlopers sound about the same - they are shitty drivers, they drive up the cost of housing, they take all the good jobs, and so on and so forth.  Same shit, different State.

Of course, part of the problem with the EU is that the central government isn't powerful enough, and after the fall of the Soviet Union, the EU was too eager to bring in former Soviet satellite States, as a bulwark against Russian aggression.   Sadly, not all these countries believe in the same levels of freedom or governance.  If you pay attention to what is going on in Poland right now, you understand why Poles want to move away.   It is the same reason blacks moved North after the Civil War - to escape the violence, poverty, and discrimination in the South.

But getting back to my main point, it is so sad that people have the opportunity for mobility in the United States, and yet few take advantage of it.  Granted, most people have to work for a living and have very little time available to them to travel.  But once retired, there's no excuse not to get out and explore the planet you live on, particularly the parts that are easy to get at and usually pretty safe.

It is like the young man we met in Ithaca, New York, who confessed he had barely left the County, much less the State, in his entire lifetime of 35 years.  "I went to Orlando, once, by airplane," he admitted, "Didn't think much of it."    Sadly, he was the manager of our local bank.  Keep those blinders on!

Worse yet, are people who cling to impoverished and backward areas, whether it is rural Mississippi or rural New York, where there are no jobs, no hope, and searing poverty.   You are allowed to move away, and yet many are afraid to - convinced that other places are scary and evil.   I kid you not about this last point - there are people today who still believe that much of the South is filled with Klansmen and rebel flags, when in fact, there seem to be more racists in the North these days.   You'd be surprised how things have changed in the last 50 years or so.  As I noted before, 45% of Georgians voted for Hillary- the "Red State" is almost purple.  Maybe if a few of those "my vote doesn't count, anyway" people actually voted..... oh, well.

Get out there and see the world - or at least your little corner of it.   You have the opportunity to freely travel to a substantial portion of it, in relative safety.    Why not go?